We're onto the fantasy semifinals, but things are only getting more difficult for fantasy owners to navigate. Injuries and COVID-19 complications might knock out our fantasy stars, and when you're on the hunt for a replacement, it's easy to fall into the trap of starting someone with "bust" written all over their Week 16 fantasy outlook. Sometimes, you don't have enough options to avoid risky players on our busts list, but you should at least be aware of the screaming possibility. We'll lay out borderline start 'em, sit 'em options, like Devin Singletary and Patrick Mahomes, who obviously have upside, but have either tough matchups or injury concerns, as well as Mike Gesicki and Michael Pittman Jr., who have cooled off in recent weeks.
As always, even perennial stars can bust in favorable matchups, but it's tough to call superstars "busts" unless they're less than 100 percent, they've really been trending downward, or they have a particularly brutal matchup. We mostly stick to naming guys on the start-or-sit bubble, not guys who are simply going to have a good-but-not-great week or guys who are on over 90 percent of waiver wires. Sometimes you don't have the depth to reasonably bench these players (or you might just totally disagree with our assessments), but you'll at least know who is at risk this week. Nothing is worse than being taken off guard by a fantasy dud.
In Week 15, we correctly identified Rhamondre Stevenson, Chuba Hubbard, Carson Wentz, Ryan Tannehill, Michael Pittman, Tyler Conklin, and the Ravens' and Panthers' defense as fantasy busts. Overall, it was a great week, and we weren't totally burned by anyone. It's worth noting our Week 15 fantasy sleepers list was a huge success too, so it looks like we're riding high in the most crucial part of the fantasy season.
Week 16 Fantasy Busts: Running backs
Jeff Wilson Jr., 49ers @ Titans (Jackson Sparks). The Titans' defense is strong against the run and currently ranks as the No. 2 defense against fantasy RBs. Wilson isn't a threat to do much in the passing game, and this matchup sets up to be more of a Jimmy G, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle game. It's tough to bench a starting RB (if Elijah Mitchell is out), but he has serious bust potential. After all, he was a bust in his two starts prior to Week 15.
Chase Edmonds, Cardinals vs. Colts (Vinnie Iyer). This is a warning that this isn’t a great matchup for the Cards’ running game in general. Both Edmonds and James Conner might fold for a second
Devin Singletary, Bills @ Patriots (Matt Lutovsky). Singletary seems to have broken out as Buffalo’s lead back, which certainly gives him potential value, but the Patriots remain as tough as almost any defense for RBs to accumulate fantasy points against. Singletary couldn’t get anything going when these teams met in Week 13 (10 carries, 36 yards), and we expect a similar performance.
Week 16 Fantasy Football Busts: Quarterbacks
Kirk Cousins, Vikings vs. Rams (Sparks). The Rams are a top-seven defense against fantasy WRs, and especially if Adam Thielen (ankle) remains out, Cousins has a low floor. If he can keep up in a shootout with Matthew Stafford, his ceiling could certainly be high, but we aren't counting on it since Cousins looks to be in the midst of a cooling-off period.
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs vs. Steelers (Iyer). You are still starting him in season-long leagues, but be weary should Tyreek Hll and Travis Kelce (reserve/COVID) not play that KC will go run heavy and can win this game with limited passing vs. the Steelers offense. (Update: Hill has been cleared to play.)
Cam Newton, Panthers vs. Bucs (Lutovsky). We had the Ravens' QBs here originally, but with both Lamar Jackson (ankle) and Tyler Huntley (reserve/COVID) out, we're forced to dig deep. Newton finds a way to get just enough fantasy points to keep owners' interested, and while the Bucs are a solid matchup on paper, you have to imagine they'll bring a different level of interesity after last week's shutout. The defense was just fine, limiting Taysom Hill and the Saints' offense to just three field goals, so there's no reason to expect Newton to have any worthwhile level of success.
Week 16 Fantasy Football Busts: Wide receivers
Emmanuel Sanders, Bills @ Patriots (Sparks). We originally had Gabriel Davis here, but with both him and Cole Beasley on the reserve/COVID list, many fantasy owners will likely pivot to Sanders. He's also a big risk, as he's just coming back from injury and faces the same brutal matchup in cold, somewhat-windy conditions.
Chase Claypool, Steelers @ Chiefs (Iyer). Big Ben won’t move the ball well downfield against the Chiefs, and that will hurt their young big-play wideout again.
Michael Pittman Jr., Colts @ Cardinals (Lutovsky). We picked Pittman to bust last week, and with just one catch on five targets before being ejected, he definitely busted. The Cardinals struggled last week against the Lions’ passing game, so it’s not as if Pittman is a “must-sit,” but he’s failed to produce anything really notable since Week 9. Against a solid pass defense, he’s not someone you can trust in a win-or-go-home scenario.
Week 16 Fantasy Football Busts: Tight ends
Tyler Higbee, Rams @ Vikings (Sparks). Higbee has missed two straight games on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and Minnesota is a top-12 team against fantasy TEs. With Odell Beckham Jr. and Van Jefferson emerging in the Rams' offense, he's fallen further down the target totem pole, so avoid him at all costs. There are usually several decent streaming options on the waiver wire at this position.
Mike Gesicki, Dolphins @ Saints (Iyer). The Saints keep tight ends in check, and they will give him the Gronk treatment.
Cole Kmet, Bears @ Seahawks (Lutovsky). Kmet had one of his best games of the season last week, once again tacking on cheap yards in 3rd-and-longs and late-game checkdowns. All the points count the same for fantasy owners, so we’re not mocking that, but the fact is he’s highly dependent on such situations. He’s also seemingly an afterthought in the red zone, as Jimmy Graham often gets more work. The matchup is highly favorable on paper, but Kmet and the Bears' offense just isn’t dependable.
Week 16 Fantasy Busts: Defenses
Arizona Cardinals vs. Colts (Sparks). After a strong start to the season, the Cardinals' defense has looked awful against the Rams and Lions, so a matchup with Jonathan Taylor and a run-first offense isn't promising here. The Colts' have just 17 turnovers on the season, and since they've started feeding Taylor at a ridiculous rate, they've rarely turned the ball over. Additionally, its offensive line has allowed the fourth-fewest sacks on the season, so don't count on those to net fantasy points, either.
Los Angeles Rams @ Vikings (Iyer). Minnesota gives up very little to defenses with a rather clean attack, so prepare to be disappointed on a short week.
Carolina Panthers vs. Buccaneers (Lutovsky). The Panthers had some great weeks early in the season and the battered Bucs are coming off a shutout. Time to turn to the Panthers at home? Nah. They’ve done next to nothing since Week 10, and you have to figure the Bucs will be more focused than ever to right last week’s wrongs.